Side Effects of Crack Abuse and Addiction

Crack is a form of cocaine that has been processed to make a crystal-like substance, named for the “cracking” noises it makes when it is heated and smoked. Crack is often abused because of the feeling of euphoria it gives the user and its relatively low expense when compared to cocaine and other stimulants. Abuse and addiction to crack has many side effects which are very dangerous for the user. Side effects of crack – including cravings, tolerance, and highs and lows – can easily lead to addiction.


Part of the reason why crack is abused by some as opposed to cocaine is because of its quick reaction time in the body. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “injecting or smoking cocaine delivers the drug rapidly into the bloodstream and brain, producing a quicker and stronger but shorter-lasting high than snorting.” As crack is smoked, its high comes on faster but it also doesn’t last very long: at average, about 5 to 15 minutes (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). Because of this, many people who abuse crack will continue smoking in order to prolong the high. They will then build up a tolerance to crack and need higher doses to feel the effects. This is one of the main reasons why crack is so addictive.


crack addiction

Crack can cause delusions and paranoia.

Crack has one of the worst craving symptoms of any drug. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, the brain’s reward system is heavily altered by the use of crack, and “the user will rapidly develop an intense craving for the drug.” This lasts during short-term and long-term use, as well as during and after withdrawal.

Physical Effects

Here is a list of the short-term physical effects of crack abuse, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center:

  • “Increased rate of breathing”
  • “Constricted blood vessels”
  • Coughing
  • Increased temperature
  • Increases in both blood pressure and heart rate
  • Burns on fingers and mouth from crack pipes

As stated by CESAR, long-term physical effects of crack abuse can be:

  • Infertility
  • “Sexual dysfunction”
  • Stroke
  • Seizure
  • Respiratory failure

Psychological Effects

The short-term psychological effects of crack abuse are:

  • Euphoria
  • Paranoia
  • Aggression
  • Depression

While long-term psychological effects of crack abuse are:

  • “Severe depression”
  • “Auditory and tactile hallucinations” (ex: coke bugs)
  • Psychosis
  • Irritability
  • “Increased frequency in risky behavior”


Withdrawal symptoms set in fast when a person has been abusing crack. Crack withdrawal often leads to severe depression, hostility, and psychosis. It can be terrifying to have a long-term crack addiction and to suddenly go through withdrawal. This is why many people who are addicted to crack will continue smoking it even though they know it is dangerous: they prefer to continue smoking rather than go through withdrawal.


It is very possible for a person to overdose even when using crack for the first time. Crack is very addictive and easily abused, and a person can die from many of the symptoms caused by smoking crack (including respiratory failure, stroke, and actions performed while in a crack-induced delirium). Crack abuse alters the brain and causes intense cravings for the drug, so it is difficult for a person addicted to crack to see what the drug is doing to him or her. It’s important to know the dangerous side effects associated with crack addiction and abuse.